Your rotator cuff consists of a group of tendons and muscles that connect your arm to your torso. Your rotator cuff helps hold your shoulder joint together and allows for a wide range of movement, making your shoulder joint one of the most flexible joints in your body.
Unfortunately, this great flexibility also makes your rotator cuff one of the most prone areas for injury. Rotator cuff injuries can happen to anyone, and they can range from mild tendonitis to rotator cuff tears.
If you recently suffered an acute injury, or your chronic shoulder pain has suddenly gotten worse, it could be due to a torn rotator cuff. Kristopher Downing, MD, & James Andry, MD of Upper Extremity Specialists, specialize in treating shoulder injuries.
Read on to find out if your pain could be a sign of a torn rotator cuff, and learn what you can do about it.
All about torn rotator cuffs
Your rotator cuff is made primarily of tendons and muscles. Tendons are bands of tissue that connect muscle to bone. They’re naturally flexible, but acute injury or overuse can stretch, irritate, or even tear them.
Rotator cuff injuries can start with tendonitis or bursitis. Tendonitis is a condition in which tendons in the shoulder get irritated and inflamed. Bursitis is a condition in which small, fluid-filled sacs called bursae — which cushion bones, tendons, and muscles — get inflamed.
A torn rotator cuff is the most severe form of rotator cuff injury. If you suffer a torn rotator cuff, the tendons in your shoulder stretch so far that they tear partially or completely. Symptoms of a torn rotator cuff can include:
- Crackling sensations with movement
- Loss of shoulder mobility
- Inability to lie down on the affected shoulder
- Muscle weakness
- Persistent pain, even at rest
Rotator cuff tears can develop over time with repetitive shoulder movement or overuse. Along with degeneration, they can also develop due to acute injury. People of all ages are at risk for developing rotator cuff tears, whether they’re athletes or weekend warriors.
Treating a torn rotator cuff
If you have shoulder pain, don’t ignore it. Dr. Downing and our team provide comprehensive care for orthopedic injuries, and we can relieve your symptoms and restore your range of motion.
To diagnose your injury, Dr. Downing begins with a physical exam. If needed, he may also use medical imaging. Tendonitis and bursitis often improve with conservative care, such as taking anti-inflammatory medication, modifying activities, and undergoing physical therapy.
If you suffer a torn rotator cuff due to overuse or degeneration, conservative care could help relieve your symptoms. However, surgery may be necessary to treat partial or complete rotator cuff tears, particularly if the tear is the result of an acute injury.
Dr. Downing repairs torn rotator cuffs with arthroscopy, which is a type of minimally invasive surgery. He uses small incisions and a camera to guide surgical tools in your shoulder. During the procedure, he reattaches the torn tendons and removes problematic tissue, such as bone spurs.
Arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery is typically performed on an outpatient basis. You can expect to participate in physical therapy as you heal. In many cases, surgery is very effective in relieving pain, restoring shoulder mobility, and preventing the injury from getting worse.
Is shoulder pain limiting your life? We can identify the cause of your symptoms and help you get well. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Upper Extremity Specialists today.